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O.J. Seraphine
O.J. Seraphine

The Government of O.J. Seraphin introduced the Cuban scholarship programme in 1979.This was initiated by the contact with President Fidel Castro and Prime Minister O. J. Seraphin at their face off meeting at the UN General Assembly in 1979.

The offer of 100 scholarships by Fidel Castro to PM Seraphin when they met at his only visit to the UN was the Cuban response to support post Hurricane David development and stabilization efforts. This was followed by coordination with Grenada-based Cuban Ambassador- Russo, through arrangements with Prime Minister Maurice Bishop of Grenada. Bishop visited PM Seraphin in Dominica to assist in that regard and to facilitate other diplomatic initiatives directed at finalizing financial AID assistance with the Non Aligned Movement (NAM) countries following Hurricane David.

It was also reported to the PM that the Cuban President's office had reconfirmed the offer of the scholarships to the PM's special envoy Bernard Wiltshire then resident tutor of the UWI –University of the West Indies at Dominica's initial attendance at the NAM conference in Havana in 1979. A decision already approved by the respective governments as this was solely under the purview of government to government diplomatic action.

A significant contribution to the development in regional unity which was the forerunner of the OECS Treaty of Basseterre of 1981 was attendance by PM Seraphin to the St. Georges Declaration 1980- One Caribbean summit in Grenada which prepared the basic platform statement of the OECS Declaration of Basseterre. This was to develop the broad principles inherent in the OECS unity as an accord by leaders Maurice Bishop and his cabinet members of Coward, George Louison and company who were later involved in the horrific end to their revolution. Present too was Athie Martin then Minister of Agriculture of Dominica.

-PM Seraphin initiated the Venezuelan treaty of Cooperation with President Louis Herrera Campins at a red carpet state visit in Caracas in 1979.

This led to the gift to Dominica through a full feasibility study of US$4 million and financing of an International Airport at Grand Savannah, Salisbury. The government offered a grant and soft loan package and demonstrated this also to the incoming Government through Henry "Babs" Dyer then Minister of Communications and Works.

The minister was given a VIP airplane trip by the Government of Venezuela to deliver to him the drawings and MOU with the financial gift and aid package for Grand Savannah.

It is reported that the then Prime Minister refused the gift as it impacted on the sales of private lands there of her counterpart Howell -HD Shillingford and would give a legacy to O.J. Seraphin.

A similar cavalier treatment was also given to the stadium at Canfield as arranged by the P.J. Government from the French Government which was also derailed by the then Prime Minister, Eugenia Charles.

The former PM also initiated and signed the French treaty of cooperation through the initiation of French Foreign Minister Olivier Stern and joined the Francophone community of nations at a signal official visit to the French Parliament in Paris (accompanied by Cabinet Secretary Julian Johnson) in 1979. This remains the hallmark of diplomatic cooperation and diplomatic relations with France.

The commitment to reconstruct the Canefield Airport was approved by the French Government through Max Vincent – a senior diplomat at the Prefect Office in Guadeloupe who approved the financing for the post- Hurricane David reconstruction and this was saved by incoming Minister of Communications and Works, Babs Dyer, who kept the intention from PM Charles to avoid the anticipated disinclination of the then PM to any project overtly initiated by the government of O.J Seraphin.

PM Seraphin as well initiated the bilateral USAID –Basic Human Needs BHN-programme in representation to USAID in Washington through US Ambassador Sally Shelton, which was a source of funding for several other US bilateral programmes in Dominica following Hurricane David -the Canefield "Old Mill" - destroyed by Hurricane David – was reconstructed under the newly initiated BHN-Basic Human Needs programme of the USA in 1979-80.

The special relationship with the US Ambassador (was very well touted) with Dominica which led to many projects being arranged and established through US Dominica cooperation, a matter which caused concerns by the Freedom Party in opposition .

Seraphin's government was signatory to the Lomé Convention through his appointment of Ambassador Dominican born Dr. Benjamin to Brussels which initiated the aid programme of IFAD and other related FAO projects of assistance and through the Lomé Convention to Dominica which was then initiated following Hurricane David. The STABEX Fund of 10 million US dollars also created the resources for a major reconstruction of the agricultural sector.

(To be continued)


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